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Review: Atletico Madrid – Barcelona

Review: Atletico Madrid – Barcelona
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A 90th minute strike by Ousmane Dembele denied Diego Simeone his first LaLiga victory over Barcelona. Diego Costa scored the opener in the 1-1 draw.

Atletico Madrid starting lineup: Jan Oblak, Santiago Arias, Stefan Savic, Lucas Hernandez, Filipe Luis, Rodri, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thomas Lemar, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa
Barcelona starting lineup: Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti, Gerard Pique, Nelson Semedo, Sergio Busquets, Arthur, Arturo Vidal, Sergi Roberto, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi

The first half was a game of tug of war. With quality players on both sides, neither team was able to find an edge. Chippiness was part of the play as well, as fouls constantly interrupted the flow. A total of three shots were fired on goal and other than a couple of Messi free kicks and a clumsy clearance by Gerard Pique which nearly led to an own goal, there was nothing to report. The half ended badly for Barcelona though, as Sergi Roberto had to leave the pitch complaining of a knee injury. Even though the show was disappointing for the viewer (the fans even jeered the players), the energy and effort these teams put up was pretty impressive.

Rafinha replaced the injured Roberto at half-time. The chess match continued in the second period. Atletico’s players moved from side to side, closing each and every gap while Barcelona’s players were stubbornly trying to find or create one. In the 60th minute, Antoine Griezmann made a wonderful run and nearly found a surging Diego Costa, who slid in, but didn’t get enough on the ball to make it count. Diego Simeone made his first strategical move, substituting Thomas Lemar with Vitolo.

Foul after foul, the game was moving along and the clock was ticking away. At one point, Diego Costa and Samuel Umtiti went at it, earning a booking each. Then, Atletico had a penalty claim which needed VAR assistance before being denied. There was definitely contact with one of Barca’s players arm, but it wasn’t intentional, which s why a penalty kick wasn’t shown. Just as it seemed this game would slowly come to its conclusion, a mismatch in the defensive assignments allowed Diego Costa to escape his marker and score after a corner kick cross by Antoine Griezmann.

Messi and Griezmann had back-to-back free kick attempts following the goal, none of which threatened the keepers. Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele came in for Arthur Melo, whereas Angel Correa took the place of Diego Costa, who complained of an injury. Arturo Vidal was the next man out. His replacement was Malcom. With five minutes to go, Ernesto Valverde had nothing to lose. In the 90th minute, Barcelona’s persistence finally paid off and it was none other than Ousmane Dembele who scored the tying goal. Messi was the one who created the chance with a lovely touch pass. Dembele showed remarkable composure by taking his time and then putting the ball through Jan Oblak’s legs.

After a tense four minutes of added time, the final whistle sounded. It was all over. Diego Simeone was so close to getting his first league victory over Barcelona as Atletico Madrid manager, but Dembele’s goal meant the spoils were shared.